After 9/11, there was a three month period where the U.S. did nothing while it weighed its options. You could feel the nation growing more impatient by the day as the administration figured out exactly where to retaliate. I felt that impatience myself.
When, after three months, we declared victory, it was hard not to be proud. We seemed to have accomplished in three months what the Soviets had not been able to in ten years. (The ten years the Soviets were mired there from 1979 to 1989 did much to crush the morale of the Red Army and hasten the downfall of the Soviet empire.)
Now, after six and a half years, we're looking more and more like the Soviets.
The worst part is, no one seems to have a clear idea of exactly what it is we're supposed to be accomplishing over there. We wanted to topple the Taliban, which had supported al Qaeda, and we succeeded in doing that. But the Taliban has made a strong comeback recently. And it is fairly obvious that they will retake power as soon as we leave. We wanted to find Osama bin Laden, but he has remained strangely elusive. We are also engaged in that amorphous, uniquely American activity known as "nation-building." That goal now seems overly ambitious, particularly now that own nation so direly needs rebuilding.
Unfortunately, Obama is now making hawkish noises regarding Afghanistan. I've never gotten the impression he cares about waging war on a distant Muslim country. He cares far more about making sure black Americans get a larger slice of the pie, and about getting reelected. But because of the latter concern, he does not want to be viewed as soft on terrorism.
Terror is something the Afghans are all too familiar with. Theirs is a forbidding, arid, mountainous country (their highest mountain measures 24,557 feet), and the Hindu Kush, literally translated, means "Hindu killer" (so named for all the Hindus who died while trying to cross it). Due to their position at a geographical crossroads, they have been conquered by both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, but more recently have fought off the British and the Soviets. When they are not fighting off a foreign enemy, the local warlords battle each other instead. They also have numerous different ethnic groups, with Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara minorities all at frequent odds with each other.
Warfare is their natural state. It is not ours.
So what exactly are we trying to do? To build a stable democracy which will prevent a resurgence of power by the Taliban? Afghanistan has never been a democracy, and if it did have a popular vote, it would probably elect the Taliban anyway. (After all, it is officially "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.") Or maybe we're hoping to convince each of the local warlords that trying to increase his own base of power is a sin, and sinning is a no-no.
I propose a much more practical solution: bulldoze the mountains and transform the entire country into flat, arable farmland, then convince the populace that corn and wheat are more profitable than opium. Honestly, this would be just as easy to accomplish as what we are trying to do.